Shy Girls – Timeshare EP
Shy Girls’ “Timeshare” EP is one of those happy accidents that comes along after some old-fashioned, feel good bump and grinding. This is no dream: Shy Girls (moniker for Dan Vidmar) is a real R&B artist with an attention to detail and a smooth touch of electronic, synthesized production. This EP easily sets the mood as “Without” warms us up with some softcore sensual vibes, followed by the slower “Still Not Falling” that reminds us that a little crooning behind the guitar never hurt nobody. The EP closes with “Under Attack,” a lush song with slow strumming guitars that whisk everyone away with a spell of all the feels. The appeal to Shy Girls is that all of the textured instrumentation is simple, but the lyrics dig deeper under the skin to reveal the turmoil of love (“I’ve got a clear vision, but visions don’t make up for love”). While some tracks like “Voyeur’s Gaze” drag on a little too long, Shy Girls has a lot to offer with this seductively sincere EP. Surely, the best is yet to come as Shy Girls invites everyone to be a part of the R&B revival with open arms.
RIYL: Rhye, Milosh, How To Dress Well, Basecamp, The Weeknd, Sampha, Cyril Hahn, Cashmere Cat
Sky Ferreira- Night Time, My Time
After years of waiting, Sky Ferreira has finally released her highly anticipated debut album, “Night Time, My Time.” With a risque cover photo to match, the alternative pop singer’s debut is certainly making a statement. Know that this isn’t another typical expression of suppressed teen angst and the longing for the simpler days of childhood, Ferreira addresses personal struggles that anyone her age can relate to.
Sonically, the album samples a taste of everything, mixing traditional synth pop with elements from rock and electronic music amongst the 12 tracks. In this record, ‘90s grunge meets ‘80s pop, and they hit it off swimmingly. Originally, “You’re Not The One” was the leading single, but “I Blame Myself” is the catchiest track of them all with a bubblegum pop chorus about Ferreira’s misconstrued reputation. “Love In Stereo” is another mentionable gem on the album as well. (On the wake of the album’s release, “24 Hours” was featured as the free Single of the Week on iTunes.)
Something about the album lacks in flavor though. While the edgier songs leave a mark in the membrane, the rest fall flat and are undoubtedly skippable. Overall, “Night Time My Time” is more sweet than sour, but it doesn’t leave much of a lasting aftertaste
Ryan Hemsworth– Guilt Trips
“Guilt Trips” marks the debut full-length LP for Canadian DJ and producer Ryan Hemsworth. For a guy who’s been spinning some sick ‘90s R&B remixes, he certainly stepped up his game for this album. The field of EDM can be challenging to break out in, especially when the latter is really pop music hidden behind electronic noise, but Hemsworth proves that he is a real contender. From the core, this “Guilt Trips” contains hard-hitting trap rap beats that are accented with sharp syncopation. The instrumentation has a multitude of layers and the lyrics are well-developed, showing Hemsworth’s attention to detail and strength as a songwriter. Standout tracks are “Still Cold,” “Ryan Must Be Destroyed,” One for Me” and “Day / Night / Sleep System.” Hemsworth has his moments where he gives listeners a taste of electro-pop, but always reverts to his electro-R&B and trap rap tendencies. Either way, “Guilt Trips” is a crowd pleaser in the club on the dance floor, or at a low-key house party. Hemsworth has a little bit of something to offer everyone as he experiments with every sound he can get his hands on.
V V Brown- “Samson & Delilah”
With more creative freedom, V V Brown displays an overwhelming amount of passion on her long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s “Travelling Like The Light” album. Released under her new label YOY (You Own You) Records, “Samson & Delilah” drops all the doo-wops, but has plenty of head bops to compensate for the lack of former R&B and pop influences. The Biblical couple for whom the album is named after embodies male and female power struggles.
The opening track “Substitute For Love” sets the tone— it’s a dark and ethereal ballad, heavy in electronic and synthesized sound. Brown’s operatic voice is commanding as she chants behind pulsing drums and vocalizes the hazardous side of love when it morphs into a toxic obsession. “Samson” follows the same flow, rolling at a gradual place that builds until the climax of all the noise. Standout single “The Apple” bites in deeper with a catchy hook and beats straight from the ‘80s. A personal favorite “Ghosts” blends some African juices in the mix that will stir up an adrenaline rush.
V V Brown refuses to compromise herself and this album is a testament to her artistic bravery. “Samson & Delilah” is the victory prize after overcoming obstacles set by the music industry. It’s theatrical, it’s dramatic and it’s transformative.
Lorde– Pure Heroine
Lord, oh Lorde! There’s something amazing happening in New Zealand, and I’m determined to find out exactly what it is. Lorde, the moniker for 16-year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor, had me worked up all summer long, but this album was totally worth the wait. “Pure Heroine” shimmers in infectiously catchy pop music galore, but it’s also dark and edgy at the same time. It’s the kind of album that will have everyone dancing around in circles for hours, and then crying as soon as they’re alone in their bedrooms. The album dives in with the synthesized single “Tennis Court,” followed by “400 Lux” and the beloved breakout ballad, “Royals.” Though the tone of Lorde’s voice drags on the drearier side, it rings with sweet conviction. And while the lyrics are simple, they convey the complexities of the average teenager struggling to transition into adulthood. Lorde cries out about violence in the media on “Glory And Gore” and whines about her “all work and no play” lifestyle on “Still Sane.” The closing track “A World Alone” seals the album with a gentle pulse accompanied by a profound message about dealing with judgements from two-faced friends, haters on the Internet and the critical world at large. “Let ‘em talk, ‘cause we’re dancing in this world alone,” she sings with optimism. Lorde is the definition of alt, and that’s why I like her so much. For a teenager, she seems more mature than most of her competitors in the music industry. “Pure Heroine” beats the odds.
RIYL: Kimbra, London Grammar, Lana Del Rey, Yuna
Banks- LONDON EP
While the “LONDON” EP summons a dark fog on the horizon, Banks’ warm voice is like a blanket on a cold, fall afternoon. Influenced by Lauryn Hill and Fiona Apple, the Los Angeles native has her own distinct voice while bending the indie pop pool with electro-R&B production.
All four songs on this EP flow into each other with ease, building off the energy set the by previous track. Opener “Waiting Game” contains the most layers as it reveals the frustrations of love while “This Is What It Feels Like” slowly burns a scorned lover to the core with its hypnotic beats. Banks’ vocals get stripped down on “Bedroom Wall,” a killer collaboration with T.E.E.D. (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinoasaurs), followed by the most dynamic track, “Change,” which closes the EP on a high note. The “LONDON” EP is intoxicating and liberating.
RIYL: Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple, The xx, FKA twigs, The Weeknd, James Blake